|Jordan Zimmermann heads to the dugout after seven-plus innings. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Washington, D.C. -- Jordan Zimmermann had a perfect game through five innings and ended up allowing just one earned run in his seven-plus innings. Most nights, that's good for a dominating win.
But not last night.
As good as Zimmermann was, his opponent was even better.
Cliff Lee threw a complete game three-hitter, striking out 12, and his Philadelphia Phillies shut out the Washington Nationals 4-0, before 24,875 at Nationals Park. The Nats record falls to 5-7, while the Phillies move to 9-3, best in the N.L. East.
As things turned out, the three unearned runs that came at Zimmermann's expense weren't even needed by the Phillies. The only run required came in the top of the sixth, when catcher Carlos Ruiz slammed a curveball into the first row of the left field bleachers for his second home run of the season. The rest of the runs were just gravy.
|Cliff Lee delivers against Nats. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|
Lee was masterful, walking one batter and fooling the Nats on a variety of pitches, including a fastball he ran inside to right-handed hitter on countless occasions for called strikes. Lee struck out leadoff hitter Ian Desmond three times, and got Jayson Werth and Michael Morse twice each. In fact, the only Nationals batter to not strike out was Jerry Hairston hitting in the eighth spot in the order.
Zimmermann deserved a better fate, but his offense just couldn't muster an attack on Lee. His final line of five hits with no walks, four runs -- just one earned -- and four strikeouts should have had him in line for a win, but the took the loss instead and his record fell to 1-2.
Only twice did the Nats even threaten against Lee, and both times the Nats ran into outs on the base paths, erasing any chance of scoring. In the third inning, Danny Espinosa (1-for-3, .281) lead off with a double and smartly took third on a fly to center by Hairston. Manager Jim Riggleman put on the contact play with Zimmermann hitting, and the pitcher bounced a routine ball to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who calmly threw home to nab Espinosa by several feet.
"We wanted him going there, yeah," Riggleman explained. "You know the infield's in and with nobody out we would make it go through but with one out we want him going on contact, kinda hoping that the ball's a little left or a little right of somebody, or maybe it's a high chopper or something hard to handle but that one was you know...if you wait for all that then you're never going so we're just kinda taking a chance there."
"If we stay there we got two outs and we're standing on third and your percentages are getting pretty bad then."
In the fifth inning, Wilson Ramos (1-for-2, BB) led off with a single against Lee, bringing up the struggling Michael Morse. Morse worked the count full, and on the 3-2 pitch Riggleman called for the hit-and-run. Morse swung through for strike three and Ramos was caught stealing easily.
"I kinda wanted Ramos running on the pitch when Morse was hitting. I just felt that Mike, deep in the count, has seen enough pitches that he'll put the bat on the ball and we'll maybe find a hole out there."
Morse didn't find a hole. He struck out for the 13th time in 34 at bats this season.
When you're struggling to score runs and facing one of the best pitchers in the game when he's on top of his game, you've got to maximize your opportunities. Instead, the Nats ran themselves out of two innings.
THE GOOD: Jordan Zimmermann. He got a few more swing-and-misses last night and walked no one, signs that his command and control are improving as he continues his recover from Tommy John surgery.
THE BAD: Six of the eight Nats hitters finished the night with their year's batting average below .217. That's just bad anyway you slice it.
THE UGLY: Other than Ruiz' solo home run, all the rest of the Phillies runs were unearned, courtesy of errors in the field. Jerry Hairston threw a ball away from third that he should have eaten, and Espinosa couldn't field a grounder from Lee when the infield was in motion for a bunt defense and Lee swung away.
THE STATS: Three htis, one walk. 0-for-2 with RISP, 3 LOB. E: Hairston (2), Espinosa (2)
NEXT GAME: Friday v. Milwaukee Brewers at 7:05 pm. Tom Gorzelanny (0-1, 8.44) v. Chris Narveson (1-0, 0.00)
NATS NOTES: Jesus Flores had a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning, his first MLB hit since May 2009. The catcher missed most of the last two seasons rehabbing from two shoulder surgeries.
Brian Broderick, the Rule 5 pitcher selected from the St. Louis Cardinals, had a 1-2-3 inning in the ninth, lowering his ERA to 12.46.
|Jesus Flores' first MLB base hit in almost two years. (C.Nichols/Nats News Network)|